Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Cat burglar' has long history in Pasco, deputies say

Shawn Culver

Shawn Culver

PORT RICHEY — The burglary suspect told deputies he once sought out a home because the lights were on inside — the better to find his loot. He crept into bedrooms to snatch wallets and purses beside sleeping strangers.

Deputies say he did this, or tried to, at least 29 times.

The burglaries started in February and quickly revealed an M.O., said Pasco sheriff's Detective Jennifer Zoccoli: Always at night, in the latter half of the month, the burglar went through unlocked doors and usually went for credit cards and cellphones. The cards were used at gas stations, then thrown away.

Detectives entered the information, enough to fill a binder as thick as a shoebox, into databases. More patterns emerged. Dots denoting the burglaries congregated in a circle with a 1.5-mile radius on a map of the Embassy Hills subdivision. From an aerial view, the "cat burglar," as detectives referred to him, was painting his own crosshairs.

Deputies canvassed the neighborhood, looking for information and telling residents about the burglaries. By night, they surrounded the subdivision.

On July 20, Deputy Darold Cook saw him near a house in the neighborhood and chased the burglar but lost him. Detectives got boot prints and a composite sketch from Cook. They took the sketch door to door.

Neighbors led them to 7814 Chalafonte Drive, where Shawn William Culver lived.

Culver's name had never come up in the area's previous criminal reports during the investigation. But one detective recognized him.

In the late '80s, Sgt. William Lawless investigated a string of similar burglaries in the Holiday Lake Estates subdivision. The suspect slipped through unlocked sliding glass doors to steal. He confessed after he was arrested and charged with burglary in 1992.

Culver had been taken in by his grandmother to raise and assumed her last name, Blaskey. Detectives realized they were looking for the same person when they ran information in the database and came up with the old alias.

"Once I realized it was Blaskey," Lawless said, "we pretty much knew we were on the right track."

Inside his house, they found stolen loot and masks made from shirt sleeves Culver was seen wearing in home surveillance tapes.

Culver told deputies that he committed five burglaries the same way: He would steal purses, throw them away a few houses down and try to immediately use the cards he had found. Then he would get rid of the debit or credit cards — but not before spending $4,000.

He said he committed burglaries after he ran out of gas money. Almost all the crimes were committed after the middle of each month, according to reports.

Culver was initially arrested on four counts of burglary of an occupied dwelling and a single count each of attempted burglary of an occupied dwelling, obstructing an officer without violence and prowling. The charge count is now around 30, but detectives are still pursuing leads after finding stolen items from 2012 burglaries in the home.

Since the arrest, Zoccoli said, similar burglaries have stopped.

Contact Alex Orlando at aorlando@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6247.

'Cat burglar' has long history in Pasco, deputies say 08/20/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 8:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Relative 'devastated' after shooting kills 8 in Mississippi

    Nation

    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — Head in hands, his voice strained, Vincent Mitchell sat outside his little yellow home and tried to make sense of how a family dispute led to a rampage that killed eight people, including the deputy who tried to keep them safe.

    Christianna May-Kelly, center, is supported by family members as she cries after answering reporters questions outside her parents' home in Brookhaven, Miss., Sunday. May-Kelly said her parents and mother were among the people gunned down during a shooting in rural Mississippi Saturday night. [AP photo]
  2. Forecast: Sunny, clear Memorial Day ahead of increased rain chances throughout the week

    Weather

    If you're planning on heading outside today for Memorial Day activities, the weather shouldn't get in the way.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. North Korean missile launch may be testing rivals, not technology

    World

    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will.

    A woman watches a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday,. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan's maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]
  4. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Samantha Bee on Florida felonies

    State Roundup

    Comedian Samantha Bee traveled to Florida, where she says "retirees and democracy go to die," to shed light on how the state makes it difficult for felons to regain the right to vote.

    Samantha Bee hosts Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS. Bee portrayed some of Florida’s felonies as not so serious on her show.
  5. For some, Memorial Day comes around more than just once a year

    Military

    ST. PETERSBURG — It is shortly before nine on a Friday morning, and the heat is already approaching unbearable levels at Bay Pines National Cemetery.

    Iles carefully digs up the St. Augustine grass so that it will continue to grow when it is placed back on the gravesite. He tries not to disturb the root base.